Paddy Johnson Interviews Chelsea Art Museum President Dorthea Keeser

September 29, 2008 · Print This Article


It appears that last weeks drama over the cancellation of the Chelsea Art Museum show, The Aesthetics of Terror ( Which was renamed Dialectics of Terror) was just the tip of the iceberg. Paddy Johnson of Art Fag City has chatted it up with CAM President Dorthea Keeser. She also has another post on her blog that links to a pdf version of the shows catalog.

President Dorothea Keeser at the Chelsea Art Museum spoke to me today about The Aesthetics of Terror, an exhibition this blog reported in error had been canceled on her authority. Curator Manon Slome called a halt to the exhibition as a result of significant differences in opinion regarding content and the direction. While the details remain murky, frankly, it seems difficult to imagine a political themed show weathering well executive decisions made with the rationale, “That’s not art”.

Paddy Johnson: We discussed this a little over email, and I wanted to continue this with you now so you have the opportunity to express the museum’s view point.

Dorothea Keeser: The problem is that you had something that is completely wrong, because the curator Manon Slome quit and canceled the exhibition in the same email. She did not quit as a response to anything we did. On the contrary, we accepted the final version of the catalog about 6 hours before this.

Paddy Johnson: So she didn’t quit as a response to what you had done? I understood the opposite from what an artist had written about the show. It was taken from an email Manon forwarded to me this morning. I’ll read you what she wrote:

Dear Friends and colleagues,

You probably gathered from the change of title and the constant changes of date that there were problems at the Chelsea Art Museum regarding the exhibition which began as “Aesthetics of Terror.” Having been on the calendar and in preparation for almost two years, with everyone kept fully involved in the show’s development, the president of the museum concluded that the show glorified terrorism and showed disrespect for its victims.

Our willingness to accommodate and conduct an attentive and sensitive dialogue with the museum, was met with increasing hostility. What began with questions as to the title soon evolved into tactics of blocking, demands for change, for the elimination of some work, some essays and images from the catalogue which would have seriously compromised the show. As a result Manon resigned from the museum and we pulled the show.


Dorothea Keeser: It is incorrect that it went beyond a normal discussion, about this or that text and about, for example, severe grammatical catastrophes that should have been corrected before the printing. I think it is very acceptable to criticize [a catalog with] an introduction which I wrote. So if I write an introduction for an exhibition, it is an exhibition which has been discussed with me, it has been accepted by me. I have been very integrated. I translated German text for her that was never put into the catalog. But that doesn’t mean that we didn’t have a normal professional dialog. Nothing sounded like what you read to me.

Paddy Johnson: So you never said that the show glorified terrorism and showed disrespect for its victims?

Dorothea Keeser: I said there were several exhibition parts which glorified terrorism and which disrespected the human beings. Absolutely. I am absolutely able stand up for that because that is my opinion. I do not think that an artist should show children and women which are torn apart by bombs. That is not the question for the artist. An artist has to go one step beyond, and find what are the reasons for terrorism and how one can go to another way a revolution against terrorism, and not just show very banal photos which we see every day in the television. That’s not art.

Paddy Johnson: So which artist is doing that?

Dorothea Keeser: I do not know, and would not like to get into the discussion of whether I did not like this or that artist. I only went into the discussion that I think we have to discuss both sides; why there is terrorism, and what other possibilities there are. A lot of peace makers have had very big success. The only way to fight is not to throw guns at innocent people. And this is the perfect exhibition to discuss these ideas and not to cancel it! This openness for discussion was completely lacking because if I say something like this, I do not criticize, I try to help. I want to open a discussion and a dialog.

A response from Curator Manon Slome

I would like to say that I am not looking for controversy. I was surprised by Dorothea’s turn against the show as she has always showed a wonderful tolerance for individual rights and political freedom. I now only seek a receptive venue to place what I believe is an extremely important exhibition that sheds light on an undeniable phenomena of our times.

Editor’s note: Technical problems resulted in a fragmented post earlier today. Apologies.

NYC: Jenny Holzer on the Guggenheim

September 26, 2008 · Print This Article

via Art Observed:
Jenny Holzer’s site-specific design for the facade of the Soloman R. Guggenheim museum is now on display. The Guggenheim commissioned the piece to mark the completion of the museum’s three-year restoration project. The piece is a light projection of political statements about terrorism and the Iraq war along with poems by Nobel Prize recipient and Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska. The work was inaugurated September 22 when Mayor Bloomberg switched on the installation causing the epigrams of white capital letters to cascade down the building. The work entitled “For the Guggenheim” will be on display from sunset to 11 PM every Friday through December with a special showing on New Year’s Eve.

Chelsea Art Museum WTF?

September 26, 2008 · Print This Article


Yesterday I posted an entry about the Chelsea Art Museum’s cancellation of their show The Aesthetics of Torture. It now appears that their Chief Curator, Manon Slome has resigned for “personal reasons”. I had originally reported that CAM president Dorothea Kesser had made the decision. After reading the press release the cancellation appears to have been caused by Manon Slome.

Check the press release below:

Chelsea Art Museum
Home of the Miotte Foundation
556 West 22nd Street
New York, NY 10011
Tel: 212.255.0719

Press Release
We regret to inform you that Chelsea Art Museum’s Chief Curator, Manon Slome, resigned this
week for personal reasons. Upon resigning, she unilaterally decided to cancel the exhibition
The Dialectics of Terror (formerly The Aesthetics of Terror) and informed all the participating
artists without prior discussion with Dorothea Keeser, Chelsea Art Museum’s Founder and
President, or any Museum personnel.

Manon Slome and Dorothea Keeser had jointly approved the exhibition catalogue proof,
which was at the printer.

We regret that these events have left the artists in the exhibition in an undesirable situation.
In an effort to move forward, Chelsea Art Museum has begun reviewing applications to fill the
position of Chief Curator. Furthermore, plans are being made to advance the opening date of
a previously planned exhibition, in order to fill the gap in the exhibition calendar.

Francis Alÿs Artist Lecture at The Renaissance Society

September 26, 2008 · Print This Article


Francis Alÿs has a show opening this Sunday, Sep 28, 2008 at 4:00 pm at The Renaissance Society. He will be giving an artist talk from 5-6pm in University of Chicago’s Cobb Hall. Cobb Hall is located directly below the Ren in room 307.

I saw Alÿs’ show, Politics of Rehearsal at UCLA’s Hammer Museum in Los Angeles last year and really enjoyed it. This artist lecture should be worth checking out.

The Renaissance Society is located on University of Chicago’s campus at:
5811 S. Ellis Avenue
Bergman Gallery, Cobb Hall 418
Chicago, Illinois 60637

Farnsworth House Flooded

September 26, 2008 · Print This Article


This is old news but still worth posting. Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House was flooded earlier this month due to heavy rains.

If you are interested in donating to help with preservation check out the Farnsworth House website.

Via the Farnswoth House website:
“Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s famous modern masterpiece, the Farnsworth House, fell prey to Mother Nature Sunday, September 14, as flood waters rose almost two feet over the top deck, entering the house. Built within the flood plain of the Fox River in Plano, Illinois, the house stands on columns five feet above ground which proved not high enough as record breaking rain amounts brought the river more than 14 feet above its normal level. More than eight inches of rain fell in two days as Tropical Storm Lowell passed through Saturday, immediately followed by the remnants of Hurricane Ike Saturday night and Sunday. Fox River waters rose quickly and by Sunday morning, September 14, they had breached the interior of the house by over a foot.

The house will be closed for tours until further notice. Staff will assess the damage immediately and begin discussions with the insurance carrier in an effort to begin clean-up immediately. Landmarks Illinois and the NTHP asks the public to please make a donation today to help support this massive effort to restore an architectural icon. ”